Tag  |  grace

Voice of Reason

Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.

Compelling Grace

My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”

Portrait of Jesus

So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.

The Same God

People sometimes ask me, “How come the God of the Old Testament seems so cruel and harsh compared to the God of the New Testament?” To answer that question, I start by assuring them that He doesn’t have multiple personalities—the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God. He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). I then explain that a good God can’t tolerate sin—an uncomfortable truth for some to acknowledge.

Never Beyond God’s Grace

My springer spaniel was recognized as one of the most talented, hardworking dogs in our hunting community. He would go out on thin ice to retrieve game when other dogs would turn back. Pursuing a pheasant through the thickest bramble and thorn—areas that other dogs would not enter because it was so dense—wasn’t a problem. His determination was so great that he even made a retrieval immediately after breaking his leg! And yet, when he was just 18 months old, I wondered if he would ever be a good hunting dog. His determined personality seemed impossible to harness and I was ready to give up on him because it appeared he would never become an obedient companion.

All I Ever Did

I sat in church with my head bowed and eyes lowered. I’ve failed God so, I thought. He must be very disappointed. Then my pastor said, “Look into Jesus’ eyes. See how He looks at you, how He sees you.” So I did. And in that moment, I wore the Samaritan woman’s shoes . . .

Full-Circle Compassion

Following a tumultuous season in her life, Bethany Haley Williams battled with shame and brokenness. The journey was difficult, but through Jesus she experienced healing that transformed her life.

Fly to Jesus

George Whitfield, the Anglican preacher who was part of the Great Awakening in the American colonies, once said, “Come away, my dear brethren—fly, fly, fly for your lives to Jesus Christ, fly to a bleeding God, fly to a throne of grace . . . beg of God to give you faith, and to enable you to be close with Jesus Christ.” Long before Whitfield encouraged believers to fly to Jesus, the writer of Hebrews encouraged weary believers to approach Him boldly and confidently as their Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14,16).

The Tone of Grace

I once had a difficult interaction with one of my sons. He had made several poor choices requiring a serious conversation. My son had a tender heart, however (as he often does), and he took responsibility for his behavior. Though I was frustrated with him, I told him that I forgave him. Later, aware that something was still bothering my son, I asked what was going on. “Well,” he replied, “you said you forgave me, but you didn’t exactly say it in a lovely tone.” My son picked up how I offered the right words, but the way I spoke told a different story. I said I forgave him, but I didn’t interact with a tone of grace.

The First Witnesses

Who was the first group of people to be invited to see the Christ-child? Who was the first eyewitness of the resurrected Christ?

Pleasing God

I was thinking about some friends who are facing trials. Jake is about to lose his job because he won’t compromise his convictions. Sheryl has been unemployed and soon her government assistance will run out. Sam had surgery to fuse together two vertebrae in his spine, but now he’s feeling numbness on his right side.

Carried

In June 2014, Hunter Gandee strapped his 7-year-old brother Braden on his back and walked 40 miles. The duo faced the energy-sapping trio of heat, rain, and muscle fatigue. So why take the grueling trek? Fourteen-year-old Hunter wanted to raise awareness of cerebral palsy by doing that they called the Cerebral Palsy Swagger. Due to the effects of the muscular malady, young Braden can’t walk without assistance.

messages made public

Hackers broke into the servers of a major US movie studio and leaked large amounts of confidential information. They released movies, scripts, salaries, and troves of salacious emails. Mortified executives quickly apologized for their racist riffs and disparaging remarks about movie stars. But the damage had been done. One celebrity, having learned she was called a “minimally talented, spoiled brat,” said she could not promote her movie because she suddenly had the chicken pox. Worse, the leaked emails left the company vulnerable to blackmail. The hackers promised to release more gossipy texts unless the studio stopped the release of a controversial new movie.

only the gospel

The outgrow never we gospel. What’s wrong with that sentence? It violates the rules of grammar and syntax. Writers may sometimes break rules for effect but if they want to be understood, they’ll never graduate beyond grammar.

A Class Act

There’s something within the human condition that seems to enjoy seeing others fail, especially if those who fail were previously successful. For instance, we might celebrate seeing a top sports team fall from their lofty perch after a long period of success. About time too, and other phrases come to mind.

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> christian living

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

Blending In

While on vacation, my daughter and I strolled on the beach in the cool of the evening. Interrupting her mid-sentence, I tapped her arm and pointed. “Look over there!” What appeared to be sand moving back and forth proved—upon closer inspection—to be a tiny crab scuttling across the beach. Its beige color, tiny size, and quick reflexes provided protection against being seen, much less caught. The small creature wanted to survive, not stand out.

Banished Words

Each year Lake Superior State University in the US publishes a list of words they believe should be banished because they’re so annoying. Topping their list in 2013 was selfie, a term that received more nominations than any other. Other contenders included twerking, hashtag, and twittersphere. This list of words is a reminder that language is always changing and can persuade, impress, or annoy us.

> daily devotional

Washed

Steady rains had transformed the hardened terrain of our backyard into a soaked softness. Walking outside, I felt the coolness of the water and mud squishing between my toes. Our dogs had been digging in a small area, so I decided to move a few cement blocks to block the patch of ground from their reach. My work left me covered with moist dirt and grass. Deciding to wash before heading indoors, I watched the clear stream of water make my skin clean once again.

Sweet Music

O ur music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.

Laughter

A group of villagers gathered around a massive rig in rural Uganda to watch as a well was being dug on their behalf. Twelve hours later, when the drilling machine struck water, the men, women, and children danced, laughed, and voiced their thanks to God for having a clean water source for the first time in their lives.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

Freedom from Stress

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.

Don’t Hesitate

Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

Don’t Hesitate

Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.

The Last Stop

My friend says our lives are like trains. We make various “stops” for school, college, job, marriage, and family. At each stop we spend time with others who have stepped off. When we graduate or change jobs, we say goodbye to the people at that junction and step back onto the train. Only a handful of people stay with us all the way to the end. These are the most important people in our lives, the people who receive most of our time and attention.

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